A Christmas Eve Meditation by outgoing Pastor Michael Crane
"What Can You Say?"
It is that time of year when everyone, from the clerk at the grocery store, the toll taker on the turnpike, the barista at the coffee shop, your dentist, the salesperson at the mall, all of them feel compelled to offer you some sort of special greeting. There are many variations of this greeting, but two are prominent. Some say Merry Christmas and others say Happy Holidays. In either case they are wishing us a time of uplifting joy during the days of this season.
Internet bloggers would have us believe that those who wish us "Happy Holidays" have been instructed by their employers to use this more politically correct greeting in an effort to not offend non-Christian clients and shoppers. Some Christians have decided to make a point of returning the greeting not in kind, but with a "Merry Christmas!" to be certain that the person greeting them knows whose star is on top of their tree.
I contend that there are those in both greeting groups who give voice to their greeting with little knowledge or understanding of just how merry, how happy these days might be.
My wife, Valerie, ever since we have been sending out family Christmas letters, has always used the greeting "Happy Holydays". I'm glad God sent this wise woman my way, because I think she's onto something. These days are holy in a way that, if we allow it, will shape all of our days throughout this and all of our years.
The holy book on which we base our Christian faith is full of verse after verse bringing to light what this season is all about. Tonight we have read only six passages of scripture as a part of this time of worship. From just these 42 verses, let me share with you some of what makes these days holy.
From Isaiah 61:1-3 - we are told that this One who comes will bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for captives and release from darkness for prisoners, to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise rather than despair.
The prophet Jeremiah tells us that this righteous branch which would sprout from David's line would come to do what is just and right in the land and that because of him Jerusalem would live in safety.
The lesser known prophet Malachi talks about how this One whose coming we celebrate tonight and tomorrow will act on our lives like launderer's soap or as a refiner's fire - purifying our lives making us fit to offer sacrifices that will be acceptable to The Lord.
The writer of the Gospel of Mark tells us of the messenger John the Baptizer offering a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. This John tells us that while his baptism is only with water, the One he proclaims will baptize us with the Holy Spirit.
Luke's gospel makes sure that we know that even the lowliest of people, the shepherds, were invited to this holiest of births. He utters that phrase we hear over and over in the narrative of Christ's birth: "Do not be afraid, because he brings us good news that will cause great joy for all people.
And finally, in John's gospel we hear that this light, the light of the world, Jesus the Christ, will shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.
Because of all these promises these days are indeed holydays.
So, no matter how you choose to greet people during this season, may your greeting communicate the joy, justice, safety, never-ending light, and the essential holiness of these days.